Friday, October 3, 2008

Role in MMO

Role in MMO

I would much rather write about player character’s role in MMORPG, but it has come obvious from several instances – not least from my earlier posts – that the RPG part of the current MMO’s is non-existing. They are MMO games, almost having “stress on the games”. But I have started to wonder about the role a typical player wants her/his character to be, and the recent blog entries on WAR have given me more ground to this.

Up until late I have been advocating my ‘perfect MMO’, which would have quests and NPC interaction which would affect the outcome of the character’s personal development. Multiple choice interaction, in which your decisions would change the outcome of the ‘discussion’. Railroaded quests in which your input would change the outcome of the quest, even turn the quest the other way around (Save the princess – encounter the princesses mother – kill the questgiver – be crowned as king). Well, railroaded would be too strongly put, but you get the idea.

Now however I have come to the conclusion that it’s all depending on the participation and role which the player wants to take. I’m a sucker for stories with strong hero’s and anti-hero’s. And as a human assumption I have thought that so are others, too. But the recent WAR outrage has started to make me doubt this assumption.

In EQ2 and WoW (which I have played), the player is lead to believe that the character is bound for great deeds and is the hero: the quests are posed to the character as the main hero and protagonist, the praise is given to the particular character for accomplishing a deed and so on. The player gets the zest that ‘I am The Hero of this story’ and starts to act like one. That is the assumption of the game developer at least in the Old World content. The content driven part of the game.

If there was an all and out war in WoW, each and every player participating the foray would depict a hero in the legend. At least that’s how I would depict the incident. And because of that it’s impossible to launch all the player characters out against the Scourge, for example, because there would be no armies to command. Like Heroes usually do.

In WAR (which I haven’t played so far), where the war is everywhere, the presumption is completely different: the characters are soldiers fighting for their faction. And this is where it becomes a different bowl of porridge. The players assume their role as warriors for a cause, and are not in fact expecting to be the heroes or the protagonists of the great storyline. Of course there are the PQ’s and Lairs and all, but as far as I have understood, the original position of the character is that of a warrior.

And it seems that a good lot of the players prefer to be fighting as footsoldiers against other footsoldiers in a large army instead of competing to grow up as a hero.

All this being said, I doubt that the player enjoying the status of a soldier would enjoy my perfect MMORPG. It would be too much to ask for a person preferring to be ordered and fighting to take the position of a hero in training and make decisions that would later on prove that s/he might not be suitable to be the warrior, but a healer instead.

Roles and role models are difficult. What is your role and who is your role model?

That is a tricky question, I think.


... said...

Sadly, I think quite a lot of MMO players don't assume a role in the first place. Skipped quest text and all.

Their avatar is just an extension of themselves, a paper doll to be dressed up in the coolest (and numerically best) look possible, so that they can feel good about themselves. And be so-called FIRST and BEST.

Mainstream MMOs like WoW and WAR that cater to the achievement need are rather prone to this.

Fortunately there are other slightly more story driven niche MMOs around, and there you might find people who do buy into the stated roles and settings. Eg. Eve - traders, pirates, etc. City of Heroes - being a hero saving people and so on.

Those sorts of games would probably be the best target for decision tree questlines and immersion into a story setting.

Maybe the KOTOR MMO will light the way. Who knows.


Copra said...

That is actually more what I mean when I talk about player's role in MMO: The role they assume as themselves. In the case of WoW it's clear that the game imposes the 'hero in training' role on everyone, because of the setting. In WAR it imposes clearly the role of a warrior with a cause, not that of a hero.

And yes, even the people in RP servers are not really roleplaying their characters most of the time, but are playing the game to gain more abilities, stats and gear for their character. Not exactly trying to create a story for the character in any way.

Technically this shouldn't be too difficult to apply, but it would require pretty much from the development team.


Azariel said...

It is of course questionable whether the footsoldier type of player would enjoy a game where he has to actually think for himself in order to get all the best stats. However, I do think that there is more to it.

Eventhough a footsoldier likes to get ordered he will always have a certain goal in mind. Eventhough this is often the goal of "I want to have all the best gear" it can often be translated to a child-like goal of "I want to be just like that high ranking player". (Could that be some sort of hero idolization?)

As such, a player not that much interested in complicated storylines, would still have to make choices to achieve his goal to become like the previously mentioned 'hero'. That would bring some spice to the game...

I don't think that the main problem with your 'perfect MMO' would be that people wouldnt find it entertaining. I think people would not like the fact that once they pick something, they are stuck with it. A good example of this is all the build changes in WoW. One moment a player wants to be a healer, and when he's done with that he wants to be a DPSer. If that means you have to return to the storyline and redo it all, then not many people would be interested.